Paris Muse: Evoking Place in Literature, Art, Music, and Myth

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Fall 2016, Winter 2017, and Spring 2017 quarters

Taught by


One year of successful college study.

"An artist has no home . . . except in Paris," F. Nietzsche

What power of evocation made Paris the center, a hive of salons generating energies for creative risks and intellectual vibrancy? Baudelaire prowled her streets, Mallarmé drew a world of poets to talk poetry. Dadaists, surrealists and existentialists made Paris cafés hubs of pure creativity. Stravinsky and Nureyev launched modern music and dance there, and philosophy effected alchemical alliances with poetry, sociology, and psychology. From Africa, the Caribbean, and the U.S. came brilliant black writers and musicians like Senghor, Césaire, Baldwin, and Bechet. Paris lured Wilde, Beckett and Pound, Picasso and Stein. Energies, arts, and beats of diverse French-speaking cultures mingle there—Martiniquan, Moroccan, Senegalese, and Haitian among others.

Nietzsche writes that “existence and the world is justified only as an aesthetic phenomenon.” Perhaps Paris is the city of artists because her energies call us to recreate beauty – to recreate our language, our arts and thought, our existence. The program will work to uncover the creative secrets of this muse.

Seminars—our salons—will analyze the novels, poems, philosophical texts, images, and musical compositions woven into Paris’s past, and create our own in response in creative workshops. All students will attend lectures and seminars in aesthetics, philosophy, literature, and music that emanates from the Parisian “metropole.” Students will also choose to specialize in book arts, creative writing, literary analysis and theory, black-and-white photography, or music studies. French language will be taught at three levels throughout the year. French study will be required for those planning travel to France in spring. Language study is optional, and encouraged, for students not traveling to France.

Fall and winter quarters will entail intensive study of Parisian movements from the decadence of Baudelaire, Rimbaud and Mallarmé through surrealism, into existentialism, absurdism, oulipo, négritude, and critical theory.

In spring, students have two options. Travel to France, where they will spend three weeks in the ancient town of Rennes, Brittany for exploring the deeply Celtic (Breton) heritage, intensive French study, then three weeks in Paris for fieldwork in arts and music. Finally all will travel south on a "vagabondage" to discover their individual places of inspiration and complete a writing project evoking their place. Alternatively, students may remain on campus to undertake a major personal project, springing from ideas, writers, and artists studied in prior quarters, an excellent opportunity to complete substantive creative or research-oriented work, with guidance from program faculty and peer critique, and continuing French language study if desired.

Program Details

Fields of Study

aesthetics art history cultural studies international studies language studies literature music philosophy theater visual arts writing

Preparatory For

graduate studies in humanities, arts, French language and literature, travel/tourism industry, international relations, business and nonprofit organizations, photography, and place-based education.


Fall Open Winter Conditional Spring Closed

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Study Abroad

Ten weeks in France spring quarter. Estimated expenses are $7,000. For details on study abroad, visit or contact Michael Clifthorne at .

Time Offered


Advertised Schedule

First winter class meeting: Monday, January 9th at 9:30am (Lecture Hall 1)

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning

Special Expenses

Students participating in the Book Arts & Creative Writing seminar should expect costs of approximately $30-50 per quarter for tools and materials.

May be offered again in



2016-06-06This program is available for 4 or 12 credits, in addition to 16 credits.
2016-04-25Special expense added.
2016-02-01Bob Haft joined the teaching team in fall.